Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

Toshiba Debuts First Glasses-Free 3-D HDTV for Consumers

Toshiba TV

Toshiba's just unveiled a range of glasses-free HDTVs, which it's saying are the first units of their type to be aimed at the consumer. Is 3-D's marketing problem solved? Will Jo Public leap at the chance to watch 3-D movies without specs?

The two units are in Toshiba's Regza range of HDTVs, and are a 20-inch main TV unit dubbed 20GL1, and a 12-inch portable set named the 12GL1. Both are distinguished in the burgeoning 3-D TV marketplace by having a 3-D system that doesn't require viewers to wear special polarized or active eye-masking glasses to see the three dimensional illusion. They're also noted as being for "personal use" so they're very definitely targeted at the home market. 

The 20-inch unit is the most interesting, sporting a half-HD 1280 by 720 pixel screen with a respectable 550:1 contrast, Cell chip Regza tech to give it the processing oomph to deliver the 3-D effect, HDMI-out, and Ethernet and USB port. The technology is powered via an optical trick that's essentially similar to the way the Nintendo 3DS will work: The screen's pixel array is topped by an extra optical sheet that's covered with "perpendicular lenticular" arrays. This means a fine grid of tiny lenses direct the light emitting from each pixel to a particular point in front of the TV's screen—if you're sat in one of the nine sweet spots that result, you'll see two different images in each eye, and your brain does the magical trick of making that image seem three dimensional.

Its two drawbacks, immediately evident from the press release are the fact that a 20-inch widescreen is only just about big enough for a small family TV in a market where TVs over 40 inches are common, and that the "suggested viewing distance" at which the 3D effect is optimal is just 90 cm. That's 35.4 inches, just under three feet. Considering that you typically have two feet between your eyes and a typical laptop screen, this really isn't very far—particularly when you imagine that several members of the family might like to watch the same movie. You know, to be social and all.

There's one final matter that'll affect how well these sell: The 20-inch unit is 240,000 Yen, or nearly $2,900 and the tiny 12-inch unit, better suited as a 3-D laptop extension unit is a steep 120,000 Yen or $1,450. Toshiba's to be praised for its efforts at consumerizing this novel tech, but it'll have to do a better job on the price before many consumers actually get their hands on the sets.

To keep up with this news, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.